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Hunt grants NMC sole statutory supervision for midwives

The Nursing and Midwifery Council's (NMC) statutory supervision of midwives will be increased, secretary of state Jeremy Hunt announced today in the House of Commons.

Currently, local midwifery supervisors have the power to investigate midwives and take them off the NMC register, without passing on the matter to the NMC.

Today's announcement means this 'extra layer' of regulation will be removed and the NMC will have sole responsibility for investigating complaints against midwives and deciding whether they should be removed from the register. This will bring the regulation of midwives in line with the arrangements for other regulated professions.

In response, the NMC chief executive and registrar, Jackie Smith said:  “We fully welcome this announcement. In the interests of public protection and patient safety, the regulator must be in control of regulation carried out in its name. This is what the public would expect from modern healthcare regulation.

“We have been pressing for this change following recommendations that the NMC should have direct control of regulatory decisions about nurses and midwives. As seen through the tragic events at Morecambe Bay, the current set up is open to conflicts of interest which is not in the best interests of public protection,” she said.

The new system will be in line with Dr Bill Kirkup's recommendation in the Morecambe Bay report, which investigated the trust's maternity and neonatal services and was commissioned by the Department of Health.

The NMC previously commissioned think tank The King's Fund to investigate the current system of regulation for UK midwives, and they branded it “confusing for patients and the public” in January, and recommended that the additional layer of regulation should end.

“It can also result in a lack of clarity for providers of maternity services over their responsibility when things go wrong because the provider carries out its own investigations at the same time,” their report said.

In terms of complaint handling, Hunt also announced that an independent national officer will be appointed at the Care Quality Commission, to make sure that all trusts have proper processes in place to listen to the concerns of staff before they feel the need to become whistle-blowers.

Information about raising concerns will also become part of the training for healthcare professionals and part of the curriculum for medical students.